Food connoisseurs need not take a train to New York or Boston to experience some of finest dining establishments in the country. All it takes is a short walk to Ibiza, formerly Pika Tapas, on 39 High Street to satisfy one’s culinary delights.

Luis Bollo, executive chef at Ibiza, was named Chef of the Year in the November issue of Esquire Magazine.

Restaurant critic John Mariani praised Bollo for being “one of several young Spaniards who are transforming traditional regional cooking by blending the old with the new.” He also called the chef a “true master and innovator.”

Bollo, who has worked alongside some of the best chefs in Spain and has traveled across the world, said he was pleasantly surprised upon learning that he was Esquire’s choice for Chef of the Year. He said that with the exception of being named Best Chef in Manhattan in 2000 by the New York Press, he has never received anything so personal for his work.

“You never think that you’re going to get any award for working in a kitchen,” he said.

But Bollo’s effort and dedication to cooking have certainly paid off in the quality of food Ibiza offers. Mariani also wrote, “After all, Ibiza isn’t simply the best restaurant ever in New Haven, Conn., it’s the best Spanish restaurant in the country.”

Students who have had the opportunity to eat at Ibiza said the restaurant certainly deserves the acclaim.

Laura Esnaola ’05, a resident of Madrid, Spain, said the majority of restaurants claiming to be Spanish she has been to have not lived up to her expectations. There are several “very good” Spanish restaurants in New York, but Ibiza is “perfect,” she said.

“It really captured the variety that we have in Spanish food, and I really appreciated that,” Esnaola said. “There was a harmony in the menu.”

Esnaola said she thinks Spanish food, when prepared correctly, is usually much tastier than American food. She said was pleased to learn that many of the restaurant’s ingredients, including all of the most essential spices, actually came from Spain.

“It’s nice to go to one restaurant and have a taste of so many different flavors,” she said.

Esnaola particularly enjoyed the authentic manner in which the fish was prepared, she said.

Bollo, who is from the Basque region of Spain, said he aims to create unique but satisfying dishes, including bacalao (slow-cooked, home-salted codfish) and villagodio (grilled rib-eye steak).

“I like to do things that people are going to enjoy,” Bollo said. “I like to do something different, and special, something no one else is doing.”

Marissa Ain ’04, a member of the Yale Epicurean Society, said the organization had one of its most successful and delectable tasting sessions recently at Ibiza.

“The chef uses superb ingredients with absolute finesse. He goes out of his way to utilize all parts of an ingredient,” she said.

Ain said the desserts were particularly delicious at Ibiza, and that on top of everything else, the service was absolutely “outstanding”.

Bollo said he enjoys working in New Haven and cooking for the crowd that eats at his restaurant — particularly Yale professors and students, who tend to be well-traveled and thus more appreciative of his international culinary style.

“There’s a kind of sophisticated clientele that can enjoy our food and our way of cooking,” Bollo said of New Haven diners.

Bollo also cooks at Meigas in Norwalk, Conn., a Spanish restaurant which Mariani also highly praised.

[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”19019″ ]